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Chicago Curfew: City Council Approves Stricter Law For Kids 12 And Younger

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The Chicago City Council approved, without debate, a more strict citywide curfew for children 12 years of age or younger Thursday.

Unsupervised minors aged 12 and younger will now need to be in their homes by 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and by 9 p.m. on the weekends in order to avoid a fine of up to $500 or community service. Three offenses within a one-year period will be subjected to a $1,500 fine in addition to community service, according to a statement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who, along with Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy, was a strong proponent of the ordinance.

"I advocated for curfew laws while serving President Clinton because I believe the safest place for a child is at home," Emanuel said. "I commend the aldermen for getting this ordinance passed. This is another tool that will help fight crime and help children from becoming victims of crime."

Minors aged 12 to 16 will be required to continue to adhere to the existing curfew of being indoors by 10 p.m. on weekdays and by 11 p.m. on weekends, according to the statement.

Alderman Toni Foulkes (15th) was among a group of three aldermen who proposed the changes to the city's curfew law earlier this month. Foulkes told the Chicago Defender that the existing law had given kids "too much leeway."

"A 5-year-old has the same ordinance as a 17-year-old," Foulkes told the Defender. "It's basically just to protect those children."

The city points to studies indicating that other cities -- like San Antonio, Tex., and Detroit, Mich. -- who instituted similarly strengthened curfew laws saw a reduction in both youth violence and arrests.

It should be pointed out that none of those cities, however, are as large and were likely not anywhere near as budget-strained or short on police manpower at the time they were evaluated -- 1997 in the case of the San Antonio study -- as Chicago is today. Other studies, such as one of California crime data in 1998, have shown that stricter curfews did not lead to a reduction in youth-involved crime.

Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields seemed to express a fair degree of skepticism regarding whether the ordinance would have much of an impact beyond symbolism, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

It’s not going to be enforceable," Shields told the Sun-Times. "If we can’t enforce laws to curb street violence because of manpower issues, how can we enforce [and even stricter] curfew law?"

Alderman Anthony Beale (9th Ward), former Police Committee Chairman, also was previously not a fan of the ordinance, though he joined his colleagues in approving it Thursday, which he said could "penalize our children for enjoying the summer months," according to the Sun-Times.

The new curfew law goes into effect Sept. 18.

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